Businesses risk losing revenue, employee commitment and employees themselves when they are deficient in building culture, training well and engaging employees like they would customers. As employees lose interest, they won’t be able to deliver sales pitches as effectively. Veteran workers won’t pass their enthusiasm onto new employees, and everyone will begin to feel undervalued.

Is there a solution? How can businesses start inspiring their workers with their training? The solution is to embrace the new rules for training.

The COVID-19 pandemic accelerated a trend: A remarkable 42% of the U.S. workforce was working full time from home as of June 2020, representing more than two-thirds of U.S. economic activity, according to Stanford economist Nicholas Bloom. As a result, training and engagement are also happening away from the office.

If you are delivering “talking head” training without a compelling story, you will likely suffer from all three pain points mentioned earlier: loss of revenue, decreased employee commitment and increased employee attrition. Boring 1970s-style training videos with bad acting — or, even worse, the slide show presentation with bullet points and monotone narration — are detrimental approaches to any training program and retention.

Every employee is exposed to video storytelling every day through the ads and influencers they experience as they search for answers on Google, Bing, YouTube, TikTok, Instagram, Vimeo and other sites. These video platforms are engaging, and their content is impactful. In fact, 84% of respondents to a 2020 survey on video marketing said they’ve purchased a product or service because of a brand’s video. Employees are also more likely to remember the content a video contains; as a Dr. Cynthia J. Brame of the Vanderbilt University Center for Teaching writes, “video may provide a significant means to improve student learning and enhance student engagement.”

Embrace A New Training Format: The Three-act Structure

How can you create memorable training if you have a lot to cover? The three-act structure used in films and commercials will help you improve retention:

Act 1

In Act 1, you carefully establish your main character (or protagonist) and his or her world and build empathy and relatability. If your audience can relate to the protagonist, they will be more engaged.

The first act also introduces the audience to the main character’s goal and the nemesis, or the antagonist. The antagonist is the person (or thing) that keeps the main character from achieving his or her goal.

For a training video, spend the first act establishing your protagonist’s world and introducing a dark, foreboding issue. Make it clear that if the protagonist fails, it means major loss, whether of a love, life, job or way of life. With the stakes high, the audience will be engaged in solving the problem.

Act 2

Act 2 begins with a life-changing event, which causes the protagonist to go on a quest to solve the problem. Throughout Act 2, the main character encounters the antagonist, experiences ups and downs, has small successes and failures, and learns important lessons. He or she goes through a journey of discovery and choices — some good, some bad. What can you teach along this path? What useful tools can you use and share?

Think Harry Potter after he finds out he’s a wizard. Think Luke Skywalker after he finds the message from Princess Leia. They’re off to learn new things about the world and themselves. Act 2 is all about the call to adventure, and it is not going as planned. Voldemort will nearly destroy Harry, and Luke will be struck down by Darth Vader.

Near the end of Act 2, the protagonist is at his or her lowest point, and all hope appears to be lost. The act ends with a seemingly insurmountable obstacle that the main character must overcome. This obstacle is the battle — the confrontation between protagonist and antagonist.

Act 3

In Act 3, the hero finds the strength to fight, persevere and achieve the goal established in Act 1. The end of Act 3 provides redemption or transformation. Sometimes, this transformation is not achieving the obvious goal but, rather, overcoming personal obstacles and winning something greater, such as clarity, confidence or love.

The caterpillar becomes the butterfly. Luke becomes a Jedi knight. Harry becomes a hero. That’s the three-act structure.

How to Use the Three-act Structure in Training Videos

Creating winning training videos also requires making them fun. After all, memorable is better than “safe.” Fun has been an antonym of training video for decades, but to be successful, training must hold and retain employees’ attention by adding personality. In short, as then-doctoral candidate at Texas A&M University Robbie Reese Fitzpatrick wrote in her dissertation, “we remember what is humorous.”

Anyone who has ever told a joke that fell flat understands how important it is to put the pieces of a story in the right order and to use timing to accentuate important points. The goal is to create metaphors and analogies that relate to your subject matter but are not too on-the-nose.

Creating stories can be as easy as recreating a play, a movie or even a sitcom scenario and infusing your training content inside it. Follow the three-act structure, as those stories do, and you will see engagement and learning increase.

An Investment in Your Organization’s Future

In terms of corporate income per employee, profit margin and shareholder return, companies that make a significant investment in employee training vastly outperform the ones that don’t. Great video training is on demand, ready for the learner and doesn’t need to wait for an instructor to free up a calendar slot.

If you are successful in engaging customers and prospective customers but your employees do not have the knowledge to sell to and support them, your brand will fail — which is why investing in video-based training is an investment in your company’s future. There are experts in the field who can help you. If you decide to seek help, make sure and check the company’s track record. When everything’s working, you can create magical results.